Thursday, 9 February 2017

Anti-depressants, Good or Bad??

Morning everyone!

I hope this finds you well and not suffering too greatly. Unfortunately, for many of us living with long term illness, the Winter itself can bring added issues, with long dark days adding to our low mood. The flu virus has been particularly aggressive this year, and is harder to shake off if you are suffering from a mood disorder of any kind. I'm hoping that this latest cold snap will be the last of it, and we can now look forward to the Spring and the sense of hope that it brings with it.

Just when I was struggling with something inspiring to write about, this week 2 articles were written in the newspaper (both the Daily Mail and The Mirror) which provided me with immense food for thought. The subject of anti-depressant medication never fails to rouse the hackles, and is both controversial and greatly misunderstood.
 As with all medication there are side effects, some serious, some not so serious, and never before has a drug been so infamously discussed.
Unfortunately there was, in my opinion, one very unbalanced article written about psychiatric medication, clearly by a journalist who had never needed them,,, and then there was another by Fearne Cotton, who had needed medical intervention, and had used antidepressants temporarily with good results.

Suffering from depression, regardless of whether it is hormonal in origin, or through trauma or genetics, is extremely serious indeed, and is also a killer.
 In the UK alone last year, there were 6581 suicides, a tragic statistic which shows both the aggression of depression and the harsh reality.
 The struggle is real, and you cannot override a depressive illness with the power of subjective thought, no more than a diabetic can create their own insulin. My own illness, I have no stigmas and make no apology for it, showed itself by the time I was 14 and has a genetic input for sure. (I'm just about to have my DNA analysed, so will be able to tell you for sure very shortly, which gene is responsible).

Both articles I read this week have shown both the downside and the healing power of SSRI medication, and I too want to show the balanced side, so please bear with me.

The negative argument for antidepressants is the side effects of course, the worst being within the first few weeks of taking them, and a period of adjustment, until the body becomes used to them. ALL drugs have side effects even paracetamol, but it has to be said that the side effects of antidepressants can be troublesome in most cases. Sadly this is what causes people to discontinue them before they've had a chance to kick in,up to 6 weeks in some people.

 The second, is the difficulties experienced in coming off them, and quite often this is where most people have the greatest problems both physical and emotional.

 Last year, I attempted to taper down using the ten percent rule, so ten percent taken away each week until the weaning process was completed. As we know.... see my last blog, this didn't work and the consequences were both serious and dire. The subsequent blog I wrote after also caused some controversy and unfortunately I didn't choose my words very carefully (so sorry). Needless to say I've had to resume taking them, and I've have had a full and complete recovery since I'm happy to say.

After this last setback, I went on to research anti-depressants extensively and even approached senior mental healthcare professionals in the hope that they could help me shed some light on why, despite a hysterectomy, I still was unable to be fully cured and medication free. The explanation they gave me seemed to be the best I can find,and I will share it with you now if I may.

Once you use SSRI medication, and particularly if you use them LONGTERM, the brain itself finds it almost impossible to then produce its own Serotonin. It seems to 'forget' how to do it and this increases ten fold  if you've used them for more than 5 years.( I've been on them for 30).

 The best way to describe it, and the easiest way to understand it is.... if you don't use a muscle in the body for many many years it will gradually waste away and become incompetent. This is known as atrophy and can happen anywhere in the body..... a kind of 'use it or lose it philosophy'.

 Somehow, this happens to the pathways in the brain...... they have now become so used to the action of the SSRI, that the normal uptake of serotonin is lost, if that makes sense.  The brain has made a new pathway in serotonin and dopamine production, and it seems that it is very difficult to reverse that processing. Although people have managed to discontinue after many years usage, it is both a long and arduous journey which can take many months or even years......(I'm trying to keep it real). The physical symptoms of withdrawal can often leave a discontinuation syndrome which in itself can be extremely debilitating and is often the reason for going back on them.

 Within my own illness,it could also mean that as well as a PMDD disorder, I had trouble regulating and producing Serotonin from the very beginning. This would explain several generations of depressive disorders in my family, as well as hormonal related illness. Quite often there can be several different illnesses running alongside each other, which I accept is not my original stance when I wrote I blame the Hormones.(sorry again).

What came first of course is anybodies guess and there are no easy answers! The low serotonin could have effected the hormones somehow, the hormones could have effected the serotonin somehow??
I really don't know.....and I'm just trying to survive.

When I think of my grandmothers generation, I'm so grateful that I came along when the management of depression was by medication, and that it was effective. I'm so happy that I've been able to cope on a daily basis, and I have the luxury of living when it is denied to so many. I'm also grateful to the skills of our scientists who have freed us from the barbaric lobotomy, and the institutionalisation of human beings that are sick. I'm delighted too that we are researching how hormones themselves can destabilise the mind and mimic mental illness. I also accept, that medication isn't perfect, it is flawed, but I also know that we are too,,,,,, we are all imperfect somehow.

If one can find a cure that is homeopathic, holistic, scientific or otherwise, then so be it. I would have sold my own soul if it meant I stayed alive and I still stand by my firmly held belief, that my hysterectomy was the best thing that happened to me. I  still have to take medication, but does that matter as long as I'm well?

 What matters more is that I'm transparent in my journey and honest, even if that means I have to back track on my original convictions.

 Fearne Cottons honesty in her article shines like a beacon giving hope and clarity to anyone suffering from depression. In particular, those that are nervous and stigmatised by the use of medication, will be empowered that a high profile women has found courage, and has spoken out.

What doesn't help is the generalisation and negativity surrounding anti-depressants, when in fact, they have saved so many. All too often we focus on the downside of the SSRi  when in fact millions are still alive because of them (myself included). Concentrating on the bad side of psychiatric medication, stops people getting the help they need, which in itself is both unnecessary and quite dangerous if  medication is urgently needed. Balance is the key,showing both the good and the bad,and also deciphering whether they are genuinely needed. Certainly if you are suffering from suicidal idealisation, then you should seek professional intervention as a matter of urgency.

I look forward to a time in the future when we will all be free of illness and no longer need any medication, but until that day comes, we must all do the best we can.

I blame the Hormones can be downloaded onto Kindle, smartphone, I pad, tablet or PC. Please leave a review and please reach out to me if you need to.

Peace and love, Suzi x

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